Advocacy Monthly: November 2019

November 2019

STS Prepares to Fight Medicare Payment Cut
In its final fee schedule released earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) cut payments for cardiothoracic surgical procedures by up to 8% for 2021. This cut is the result of CMS increasing reimbursement for evaluation and management (E/M) office visits without applying the same updates to postoperative visits that are bundled into global surgical payments. Because there is a set pool of money for Medicare payments, an increase to one type of service (E/M office visits) mandates cuts for other services—in this case, global surgical payments. The Society is actively communicating with other medical and surgical specialties impacted by this policy, as well as Congressional allies, and will pursue all possible legislative and legal options to reverse these changes. Additional details will be provided in the next issue of STS News

Maximize Your Reimbursement by Attending 2020 Coding Workshop 
Learn more about these cuts to cardiothoracic surgery reimbursement, as well as other coding changes, at the STS Coding Workshop, January 24-25 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The workshop will present solutions for common and uncommon coding issues, address relevant guidelines, and clarify coding documentation criteria for adult cardiac surgery, congenital heart surgery, general thoracic surgery, and vascular surgery. New for the 2020 Workshop: Participants will have access to a series of supplemental online modules covering the global surgical period, modifiers, bundling, diagnosis, and coverage considerations to enhance their coding knowledge before and after the workshop. View the agenda and register yourself and/or your coders by November 29, 2019, to save $100 with early bird pricing.

Annual Meeting Offers Advocacy Strategies and Reimbursement Tips
f you’re already heading to New Orleans for the Coding Workshop, make the most of your trip by also attending the STS 56th Annual Meeting, January 25-28. In addition to exciting scientific research and thought-provoking lectures covering all facets of cardiothoracic surgery, special advocacy and health policy sessions include:

  • STS Advocacy: Supporting the Specialty and Your Patients (Sunday, January 26)—Experienced Key Contacts will share advice on how to have successful meetings with Congressional representatives and describe the impact that grassroots advocates can have on the legislative process.
  • Health Policy Forum (Tuesday, January 28)—Both hospital-employed cardiothoracic surgeons and those in private practice will benefit from this session, which will outline how to navigate the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System and Alternative Payment Models in the year ahead.

Check out the meeting brochure for more information on the educational program, and secure your spot today.

Society Emphasizes Support for Ban on Flavored E-Cigarettes
As news reports indicate that the Trump Administration may be backing away from a proposed ban on flavored e-cigarettes, STS joined the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in issuing a statement reiterating the importance of removing these products from the market. The Society also signed letters to First Lady Melania Trump and Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar stressing the need to include mint and menthol flavors in such a ban. Data from the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey show that these flavors are used by approximately 64% of high schoolers who smoke e-cigarettes.

STS Comments on Proposed FDA Requirements for Tobacco Product Applications
The Society provided feedback on a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed rule that would set stricter standards for premarket tobacco product applications, which the FDA uses in deciding whether the product can be marketed to the public. STS supported many of the FDA’s stipulations, including requiring manufacturers to submit reports on the potential health risks of new tobacco products and the likelihood that such products would entice those who do not already use tobacco to start doing so. The Society also urged the agency to require information on the effects of secondhand exposure to the smoke/aerosol released by tobacco products.

Key Contact Connect: Boova Highlights CT Surgery Priorities
STS Key Contact Robert S. Boova, MD, from Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine in Philadelphia, recently met with Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) and talked about the opioid crisis, access to health care, gun violence, and the STS National Database. “We discussed how the Database provides extensive information for research, education, and quality improvement, and I emphasized how combining these data with Medicare claims data would further facilitate outcomes-based research,” Dr. Boova said. “The meeting was informative, collegial, and enjoyable. The Congresswoman seemed very open to further communication.” The voices of cardiothoracic surgeons are essential in ensuring that legislators understand the issues facing the specialty. For help with setting up a meeting or phone call, contact Madeleine Stirling.